Flint Hills NWR

Mention the Flint Hills of eastern Kansas and most of us picture broad, grass-covered ridges with narrow, wooded valleys, grazed by cattle and patrolled by raptors. So, as I headed for the Flint Hills National Wildlife Refuge, southeast of Emporia, I expected tallgrass prairie, bison herds, coyotes and upland songbirds.

In fact, like most preserves in the National Wildlife Refuge System, Flint Hills was established to protect habitat for migrating waterfowl. Stretching along the Neosho River floodplain, this attractive refuge offers a mix of wetland habitats which attract a wide variety of wildlife. In addition to the waterfowl, one can expect to see herons, egrets, gulls, shorebirds, wild turkeys, bald eagles, white-tailed deer and a host of reptiles and amphibians; of course, the numerous insects attract a diverse population of resident and migrant songbirds.

Accessed by short trails and an extensive network of gravel roads, the Flint Hills refuge covers the Neosho River floodplain from the town of Neosho Rapids to the backwaters of the John Redmond Reservoir. To reach the preserve from Emporia, head east on I-35 for approximately 5 miles, turn south on Route 130 and proceed 3 miles to the entrance; much of the refuge is closed to the public from November 1 through March 1 but is otherwise open from dawn to dusk.